At the beginning of treatments I had good weeks. Lately it has dwindled down to good days. And even during the good days there are still moments of frustration or annoyance because I can’t do something or I don’t have the energy or a period of dizziness comes out of nowhere or I am obligated to get a shot that morning. Even my Wednesday date nights with Nico have started to get shorter and shorter because I simply cannot stay awake. The good days are kind of more like ‘meh’ days. That’s why when a perfect day rolls around, I hold onto it with everything I have and save it to get me through the ‘meh’ days and the bad days.
This weekend Nico and I had two asados (Uruguayan barbecues). One was Saturday night for his friend’s birthday and one was Sunday afternoon at my friend, Julia’s house. Saturday night was fun but poor Nico had a terrible headache and just wasn’t feeling it, so we ended up leaving early. In all honesty, I wasn’t too heart-broken to be getting home before midnight. We woke up Sunday both feeling pretty great! By the time we got up, Mom had already been to the store and was making dessert to take the Julia’s. We had a leisurely breakfast and watched some Uruguayan morning news. Sitting on the couch sipping my tea and watching my boyfriend interact with the news, the smell of blueberry cake wafting out of the kitchen, the birds chirping through the screen door I thought what a perfect morning.
We were a little late in meeting up with Valeria and her husband because my oven has some issues, but being a bit tardy is typical Uruguayan style so I didn’t sweat it. Nico was all impressed by Pablo, Valeria’s husband. “He is really important in the world of economics,” he whispered to me in the car. “I only hang out with important people,” I whispered back. I was so looking forward to Nico meeting everyone. He has met all of my expat friends and some of the Uruguayan friends. But the people at this asado are my local rocks! They have been the most important people during my time of treatment. Carla, Valeria, Maritte, Julia are the ladies who go with me every time to the hospital for chemo. We were only missing Maria. They are the ones who check up on me and take care of me when I need something and even when I don’t. Javi and Carla have been my lifelines of sanity. Javi has told me on numerous occasion that until he meets Nico, he doesn’t exist. These are the people who are going to be in my life for as long as I stay in Uruguay. They are my hugs and how are you doings and just checking ins and vamo arribas. I needed all of the people I care about to finally meet a man I care about. Plus, I had a little secret…Julia’s husband, Andres, restores old cars for a living. He just happens to have a fully refurbished Chevy Impala 1964. I couldn’t wait for Nico to meet Andres AND see his car.
Julia and Andres have two little girls, whom I love! Luna and Maya are the cutest little things and always have the cutest clothes and hair. To me, Julia is super mom! At one point I was cleaning out my closet and thought the girls might like to play dress-up with the costume jewelry. I am now at hero status. Julia and Andres have this amazing house with a garage the was something out of Nico’s dream! And sure enough, as we made our way into the back yard, my 30 year old boyfriend turned into a small child. His eyes got really big and though he was trying to be so serious, he couldn’t help his goofy grin. My heart just melted right then and there. It was the same look he had when I got him the Impala 62 assembly manual for his birthday. The funny thing was I don’t know who was more excited, my man or Valeria’s. They were inspecting that car like the fine work of art that it is. I was at ultimate happiness watching this.
Then Maritte and Javi and Carla showed up and my happiness climbed to infinity and beyond. Finally, Nico was going to meet all of my people. Javi started the introduction with “You do exist!” I had told Nico that these are the people who get me through cancer every single day. He knew how important this was to me and jumped right in.
Seba and Cassie rounded out the group. Cassie was Julia’s student teacher last year and is now teaching English in the public school system in Virginia. It was really nice to talk public school again. It also made me very thankful that I got out of that mess when I did. I don’t miss having to grade 137 papers and standardized testing and government red tape and censorship of texts. Nope, I will gladly take my private school problems any day.
The women sat around the salads gossiping and laughing. The wine was poured. Mom and Maritte chatted. They really are two peas in a pod. It’s really kind of funny how much they like talking to each other. The ladies talked about family traditions and plans for the summer. We talked about the beautiful weather. And while we did our women thing, the men stood around the cooking meat talking man things. Nobody checked a cell phone (ok, maybe Seba…eye roll for the technology teacher). There was never any silence. There certainly wasn’t a lack of food. And sure, most of us work together, but when it came to Cassie and Nico and my mom, they were folded into the group like regulars. English and Spanish swirled all round. Two little girls joyfully played with Easter baskets that were brought for them from the states by Cassie. Even the hammock was well used. And this is what I love about Uruguayans. No matter whose house you are at, you make yourself at home and everyone is included. It was all just so perfect.
Driving home, Nico was still talking about the car. I think Andres is his new hero. He would have stayed forever if we had not dragged him away. He was so animated about everything. “I think I like your friends better than mine,” he told me. Haha I love it! Mom was at her most happy. She had some wine and got to use all of her English words and play dolls with little girls. And I had a memory to hold onto when things got bad. Because the next day they did. Really bad. So, I hold on to the pictures taken and the sounds of laughter and the smell of the meat cooking and the feeling of perfect happiness. I hold on to a memory I shared with people I love. I hold onto a perfect day. It is mine and only mine. And despite anything that comes my way, I am holding onto my perfect day.